Bird songs fill the cabin of the gondola taking us to the Big Buddha. Through the glass bottom we observe the South Chinese Sea which we smoothly pass over towards the mountains of Lantau Island. Behind us Hong Kong airport, world’s largest cargo airport, where we have just landed gets smaller as we fly over the jungle. Sometimes we notice hikers in bright coloured T-shirts which like small dots move through the greenery on various trails beneath our feet.
The 25-minute ride in the Ngong Ping 360 cable car is more than just a fun scenic ride. It is by far the most exhilarating means of transportation leading to the Big Buddha, tucked away high in the mountains of Lantau Island. The statue emerges from the green mountains and its size clearly impresses.
Once up, the short paved walking path leading to the Buddha is lined up with various stores missing a bit of authenticity such as Starbucks, 7 Eleven and Subway. However, one of the first stores coming out of the Ngong Ping 360 is an interesting tea shop. Many delicate teas and porcelain tea sets can be found at the Li-Ngong Tea House. More than a shop, it produces the magic flower tea that was invented in the Yunnan province of China. Grown in a close-by organic farm on mainland China, flowers are harvested and sewed together with some tea leaves by hand. This delicate process takes about 20 minutes for an experienced craft woman in order to produce one finished flower. The result is a little green bowl that blooms as hot water is poured on it, liberating the subtle flavours of the tea as the flower opens up. Not only are the subtle tea brewed this way enjoyable to drink, but the blossomed flowers can be kept in water and used as decoration for up to three weeks!
Getting closer to the 34-metre high bronze statue Tian Tan Buddha, the atmosphere changes. The smell of incense burning fills the warm afternoon air. Fairly recent as it was completed in 1993, this large statue of Buddha Shakyamuni close to the Po Lin Monastery reflects the harmonious relationship between nature and humans, people and faith. Over a few decades, it has become an important place of worship for Buddhists, and locals and tourists alike conquer the long stairway to the foot of the majestic Buddha being rewarded by breath-taking views.
Heading back to Hong Kong Island or Kowloon after visiting the Big Buddha is missing out on visiting the fishing village of Tai O, only a 20-minute steep downhill bus ride away. Tai O is sometimes nicknamed the Venice of Asia. This is clearly exaggerated and while it is not the most charming village compared to some other Asian fishing villages on stilts, it has remained very authentic despite its close proximity with one of the most modern metropolises!
Tai O seems to have been populated early and may have been a hotspot for piracy as the Tai O River mouth provides a great protection. While the oldest building, the Kwan Tai temple, dates back to the 15th century, the village itself was established in the 19th century from a Tanka (or boat people) settlement and is the oldest of the sort in Hong Kong.
It probably hasn’t changed much! Many of its houses – or better called shacks – are on stilts and fishermen come and go on the river. The best way of transportation within the small Tai O village is on foot or by boat as the streets are too narrow for cars. Locals bike.
The little fishing harbour facing west offers fantastic sunsets while at sunrise the quiet village is busy with its old people going to breakfast before trading at the morning market. Even off market, streets are lined up with shops selling all kinds of dry fish and seafood. At night a few colourful paper lanterns lit up the narrow alleyways while smells of food emanate from the shacks. Pushing the door of one of the unpretentious restaurants promises to be a fantastic culinary adventure with some of the best seafood around!
Marcella & Claire
- Landing at the airport you are already close to the Big Buddha. To check it out right away, take a blue taxi (Lantau taxi) to the Tung Chung Cable Car Terminal (a 5-minute ride). You can leave your luggage at the cable car terminal if needed.
- Make sure to buy your ticket for a cabin with a glass floor for the best experience and enjoy the 25-minute ride up with the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car.
- From the Big Buddha, you can take a bus or taxi to Tai O for a few $HK.
- From Tai O you can take the bus to Mui Wo from where you can take one of the regular ferries to Hong Kong Island.
- We recommend you to stay at The Murray on Hong Kong Island, a landmark turned into a luxurious 5-star hotel that is the perfect base to explore HK providing tranquillity by the Hong Kong Park, convenience, top service, comfort and amenities.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.
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